The Browns defeated the Eagles last night, but they may have lost a key defender in the process. The team is anxious awaiting Denzel Ward’s diagnosis.
Baker Mayfield may have gone No. 1 overall but Denzel Ward has been the most impressive rookie for the Browns during the preseason. Unfortunately, the injury he sustained in Thursday night’s preseason game against the Eagles may halt his progress.
Ward will undergo an MRI today to see if there’s any significant damage to his back. The rookie cornerback appeared to be in a lot of pain after suffering an injury tackling Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. Team officials examined him in the locker room before he returned to the sideline to watch the rest of the Browns’ victory.
Losing Ward for any extended period of time would be a significant blow to Gregg Williams’ defense. The former Ohio State star’s ability to hold up on one-on-one matchups on the outside was freeing up Williams to dial-up more blitzes as a part of his attacking scheme. If Ward can’t be on the field Week 1, it’s going to force the Browns to implement a much more conservative game plan on defense.
Fortunately, there is an adequate backup behind Ward on the Cleveland depth chart. E.J. Gaines has been a starter in the NFL, and he’s the guy who would likely fill his spot in the starting lineup. Gaines definitely doesn’t have the upside that made Ward such a high draft pick, but he’s proven that he can be an adequate starting cornerback. The Browns aren’t looking at a disaster if Ward is forced to miss a few regular season games.
Still, Ward’s injury is a significant issue for the Browns because they are a team that need playmakers in the worst way. The coaching staff is counting on their talented rookie to be one of the cornerstones of their defense for years to come. Any significant injury to Ward would cast a pall over what’s been a pretty bright preseason for the Browns.